5 tips for making the most of your time in the gym

A Fit Mess
July 14, 2016

Hello there! It’s Thursday and I hope you are all feeling great. I just want to thank you for all the kind words I received after posting that I passed my personal training exam. It really meant a lot that you support me and it’s been neat to go through the process (in a way) together.


Anywho, I wanted to talk a bit about how I manage my time at the gym. People often ask me if I can actually get an effective workout in during my lunch break. Yes, totally! Now, granted I am lucky because my gym is right down the street from my office and I block the time on my calendar as if it’s a real appointment. But more importantly, I’ve learned how to be extremely productive at the gym so I don’t waste any time. Staying on task allows me to get in and get out quickly and effectively. For additional tips, check out my post on how to navigate a busy gym.

Here are my tips for making the most of your time at the gym:


1. Have a plan

How many times have you gone to the gym without knowing what you were going to do until you get there? While I can see the benefit of “feeling based training” (designing your workout based on how your body feels in the moment), if you’re like me you can easily get stuck doing the same thing this way. Not having a plan can also keep you from challenging yourself and making progress. Every Sunday I outline my workouts for the upcoming week. And I structure things in a way that gives me flexibility in case things come up and I can’t get a scheduled workout in (<–easy to do when you are working and have kids). For example, I always plan a strength workout for Monday. This way, if I need to miss it I still have plenty of time to make it up during the week.


2.  Keep a training journal

This is such a great way to outline your weekly plans and track your progress. I’m not the best at remembering what weights I used in my last session so having a notebook is super helpful. I also jot down a bit about how I felt physically and if I did anything extra (or, um, skipped). And I keep a list of workouts that I can do at home or when I have limited equipment so that if I’m unable to get to the gym I always have a workout handy. It really takes the guess work out of your exercise.


3.  Use a timer

Having a timer (or a stop watch) is helpful for sticking to your program and designated rest intervals. Your rest period has a significant impact on your end results (whether that’s to increase strength, burn fat, or improve endurance) so it’s important to follow the right plan. I love using the Gymboss app because I can just set it and forget it. I keeps me on point with my rest periods and is simple to use. It’s also great for Tabata and HIIT workouts where you need exact intervals.


4.  Incorporate super sets and high intensity interval training

This can be really valuable when you are at a busy gym. You can have an extremely effective workout by using multi-joint movements (like lunges and deadlifts) and super sets. These movements cause a high metabolic response in your body. Your muscles will work harder, your heart rate will go up, and your metabolism will be boosted. High intensity intervals stimulate fat loss and muscle growth in ways that slow and steady cardio cannot. For workout examples and sample programs, be sure to take a look at my Workouts page.


A Fit Mess


5.  Don’t skip the stretching!

When we’re short on time that’s usually the first thing we cut, right? It’s easy to forgo stretching at the end of our workout, but it’s super important to take the time to do. Spending 5 – 10 minutes to lengthen and relieve tight muscles will make a big difference on your ability to recover. It will also reduce your likelihood of injury, ensuring that you can continue to make it back to the gym. Remember, static stretching should always be done at the end of your workout.


I would love to hear how you manage your time at the gym! Sharing your tips below can be helpful to everyone. 


For further reading, take a look at these previous posts:

Making time to exercise

Should you join a gym?





  1. Having a plan is where I see so many people go wrong. They come in, have no idea what to do, and end up wasting so much time trying to figure it out that they don’t get the most of their workouts. Keeping track of what you’ve been doing is super helpful too! Great tips.

    1. You’ve made a good point, Becki, and have reminded me that maybe I need to address the fact that many people may not know exactly *what* to do. I’ll be sure to discuss that in a future post. Yes, keeping track is a must! Thanks for commenting.

  2. This is a great article. I always go clueless. Thanks for the tips, I will be sure to come up with a plan and bring a journal. I also forget to stretch!

  3. LOVE supersets and totally agree about the timer thing. Sometimes I find myself kind of taking my time or not keeping my heart rate elevated with breaks that are too long. I love my heart rate monitor watch for helping me stay on track and having my timer built in!

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